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Goodbye, Ginger One Eye

Goodbye Ginger One Eye, by Rural SpinIt is with great sadness that I must announce the death of my beloved blind hen, Ginger One Eye. She had a ton of fans around the world, and to me she was a wonderful bird and tolerant friend. Ginger taught me life lessons, such as being true to myself, adapting to challenges, and producing gifts of the heart for others even during times of dark and cold. It’s been a week since she died, and writing this now still makes me get all choked up. I know many of you will feel her death, too. (If you are new to Rural Spin, please read more about Ginger One Eye here and here.)

I loved that bird, and at the same time I respected her for what she was: a chicken. A very special chicken, but a chicken nonetheless. I accepted her for exactly what she was, and loved her for that. She didn’t need to be anything more. I didn’t get affection from her, and I know she didn’t really appreciate it when I succumbed to the desire to run my hands over her lovely feathers. But my feelings for her were true and always will be; my natural tendencies of loyalty and affection are hardwired and bone-deep for people and animals alike. I did often wonder what went through her head when she saw me. I like to think she appreciated that I gave her a special pile of cracked corn in the same spot every day so she could scratch-n-peck in relative protected peace. I did my best to allow her to have as normal a chicken life as possible, even though she couldn’t see much at all.

Ginger One Eye was keenly focused on taking care of herself, including being hyperaware of her surroundings so she could overcome her blindness. And she took great pride in her purpose: laying eggs. She took her egg laying more seriously than the other hens, in my opinion. She even laid all winter; because she couldn’t see very well her laying wasn’t dictated by day length. She loved the nesting box, sought out the crushed egg shells and oyster shell I provided for hen health, and figured out how to get her full share of feed, foraged insects, and fresh water. She at times even became so broody trying to hatch eggs that I had to set her up in a special pen to get her to chill out a bit. But to her laying eggs was a means to an end: she wanted to become a mother, even without a willing rooster around. And boy can I relate to that.

My last visit with Ginger One Eye was when I gave her to a friend before I moved to New Mexico. It was there that she and some other hens got attacked by the fox that would ultimately be the cause of Ginger’s death. But Ginger One Eye was the chicken that survived that fox attack and managed to lay one last egg before succumbing to her injuries. Because that’s the kind of hen Ginger One Eye was: optimistic and feisty.

While part of me wishes I had been with Ginger in her last moments, it’s probably best that I remember her the way she was the last time I saw her. When I dropped her off to live with my friends at The Lyons Farmette before I moved, she emerged from the carrier into her new flock with bravery and curiosity. And when she heard her first rooster crow, her neck stretched out and her ears perked up listening to that sound. At that point she likely thought to herself, “Ah ha! That’s what I’ve been missing! Those baby chicks won’t be far behind now!” I imagine she laid her eggs with renewed vigor, and was a happier hen in a flock with a proper rooster.

 

Rural Spin

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Posted by on April 16, 2014 in Animals, Homesteading

 

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DIY Clarified Butter (Ghee)

Making clarified butter www.ruralspin.comRecent studies show that butter is not quite the food demon it has been made out to be in the past few decades. In fact, going back to pure, whole full-fat food may actually prevent obesity instead of causing it. But as with most tasty things, moderation is key. These studies don’t provide free license to load up on butter, cream, and whole milk, but they do indicate that choosing them over the fake food “fat free” alternatives is healthier.

Making clarified butter www.ruralspin.com

Use the highest quality organic butter you can.

Clarified butter is butter that has had the milk solids and water removed until all you are left with is pure butterfat. While the word “butterfat” doesn’t sound all that healthy, there are a few advantages to clarifying your butter:

  • The process of clarifying the butter removes most of the lactose and casein that is contained in butter, which makes it great for those who are lactose intolerant.
  • If you are a follower of Ayurveda, ghee (a class of clarified butter) is considered a health food. It lubricates connective tissues and promotes flexibility, according to the Ayurvedic Institute in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
  • The phenolic antioxidants in clarified butter help bolster the immune system.
  • Clarifying butter increases its smoke point to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. This means you can use it at much higher temperatures without the butter burning, which is great when cooking things like omelets, fried potatoes, and fish.
  • Because the milk solids have been removed, your clarified butter has a much longer shelf life than regular butter. It can be stored in the refrigerator without spoiling for six months or so.

HOW-TO

Making clarified butter www.ruralspin.com

Skim the whey proteins off the top.

The butter you use for clarifying should be unsalted; salted butter has been linked to unpredictable results when clarifying butter, but I have made clarified butter using both unsalted and salted butter and have had no problems. You definitely want to purchase the best organic butter you can, however. The cheaper the butter, the more water and chemicals are present, which can negatively affect making your clarified butter, and will decrease the quality.

It’s easy to make your own clarified butter:

  • Take a pound of butter and place it in a deep saucepan over very low heat or a double boiler.
  • Let your butter melt slowly so it doesn’t burn, and until a scum forms on the top (these are whey proteins). Skim this off with a skimmer or a spoon.
  • Continue simmering your butter for about 10 minutes until no more white scum forms at the top.
  • After you remove the scum from the top, you will see that the milk solids fall to the bottom. The clear yellow clarified butter will float on top.
  • Strain your butter through cheese cloth or a fine sieve to separate the clarified butter from the whey proteins.
  • Store your clarified butter in a glass jar or crock.
Making clarified butter www.ruralspin.com

Remove the milky solids at the bottom by straining through cheese cloth.

You can save the milk solids and whey proteins to flavor dishes such as biscuits or sauces. And please note that one disadvantage of clarifying butter is that it loses some of its buttery flavor along with its milk solids, so while it’s wonderful for adding flavor in high-heat cooking, a slice of bread fresh from the oven is best accentuated with regular butter.

Ghee is a form of clarified butter, but they are not the same. To make traditional ghee, you must let your butter simmer along with the milk solids until the milk solids caramelize, then they are removed. This caramelization lends a nutty taste to your ghee.

 

 

 

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35 Heirloom Seed Suppliers

Heirloom and GMO-free seed sources: www.ruralspin.com

It’s that time of year again! When we spread our seed catalogs out on the table, grab a cup of tea, and drool. What will we plant this year? Will we choose a tried-and-true tomato variety or go for something completely new? Will we set aside space for something different, like an heirloom amaranth, or a carrot from the 1800s? But even if we just have a few patio planters, dreaming about all of the gardening possibilities is a fun activity!

I typically choose heirloom plants for my seeds. I prefer the historical variety that heirlooms provide, and now that I am a new resident of New Mexico, I will be gravitating towards heirlooms that have traditionally been grown in the southwest, or which have drought-tolerant tendencies.

There is some confusion about the difference between heirloom and open-pollinated plants. Open pollinated refers to plants that reproduce successfully by natural means like insect, wind, or bird pollination. Heirloom plants (also called heritage plants) are ones with a long history, which have been passed down through generations within a family or a culture. All heirloom plants are open-pollinated, but not all open-pollinated plants are heirlooms. Being a history buff, I enjoy the heirlooms for their history as much as their tastiness.

Nowadays, heirloom and open-pollinated plants are seen as a foil to GMO (genetically modified) seeds, which are under scrutiny. Many countries have banned GMO plants for a variety of reasons. This can be a complicated and detailed topic, so a good source to learn more about why GMO seeds should be avoided can be found here.

But where do you find heirloom seeds? There are a variety of sources worldwide, and below is a sampling of good sources for heirloom seeds for your garden. If you find that I am missing a favorite source for open-pollinated and heirlooms seeds, please do add it in comments!

Some of these suppliers carry both heirloom and hybridized seeds, but will identify which are the heirloom varieties (search “heirloom” in each website if you’re having trouble identifying the heirlooms they offer). Some, but not all, of these suppliers also offer organic seeds; they will also specify which are organic and which are not. Also be aware that some of these do not ship to all countries.

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds: www.rareseeds.com

BBB Seed: www.bbbseed.com

Bountiful Gardens: www.bountifulgardens.org

Botanical Interests: www.botanicalinterests.com

Burpeewww.burpee.com

D. Landreth Seed Company: www.landrethseeds.com

Fedco Seeds: www.fedcoseeds.com

Heirloom Seeds: www.heirloomseeds.com

Heirloom Tomatoes: www.heirloomtomatoes.net

Heritage Seed Conservancy: www.growseed.org

Heritage Harvest Seed: www.heritageharvestseed.com

High Mowing Organic Seedswww.highmowingseeds.com

Johnny’s Selected Seeds: www.johnnyseeds.com

Kitazawa Seed Company: www.kitazawaseed.com

Kusa Seed Society: www.ancientcerealgrains.org

Living Seed Company: www.livingseedcompany.com

Native Seeds/SEARCH: www.nativeseeds.org

Nichols Garden Nurserywww.nicholsgardennursery.com

Peaceful Valleywww.groworganic.com

Pinetree Garden Seeds: www.superseeds.com

Real Seed Cataloguewww.realseeds.co.uk 

Renee’s Garden Seedswww.reneesgarden.com

Salt Spring Seedswww.saltspringseeds.com

Seeds of Change: www.seedsofchange.com

Seed Savers Exchange: www.seedsavers.org

Solana Seeds: solanaseeds.netfirms.com

Southern Exposure Seed Exchange: www.southernexposure.com

Sustainable Seed Company: www.sustainableseedco.com

Terra Edibleswww.terraedibles.ca

Territorial Seed: www.territorialseed.com

The Cook’s Gardenwww.cooksgarden.com

The Cottage Gardenerwww.cottagegardener.com

Turtle Tree Seed: www.turtletreeseed.org

Veseys: www.veseys.com

Victory Seeds: www.victoryseeds.com

Rural Spin

 
19 Comments

Posted by on February 16, 2014 in Gardening, Home and Living, Homesteading

 

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The Sanity of Slow Words

Slow Words for improved communication by Rural SpinThe Slow Food movement, founded in 1986, seeks to reconnect us to real enjoyment and respect as it relates to the food we eat. Instead of gobbling up fast food that is low on taste and health, sit down to meals using local, nourishing foods cooked in a thoughtful manner. Slow Food is, in fact, retro eating in a modern world. (To learn more about Slow Food, check out their website.) In this spirit, I’d like to see us focus on what is healthy and thoughtful in our personal communications, too. In response, I’m calling for a Slow Words movement, to reconnect us with a retro and arguably more civilized communication style for our modern lives.

I don’t know about you, but I feel saturated with the accusatory diatribe that seems to permeate not only the internet but also our interpersonal relationships. People seem bent on suspicion and accusation instead of true listening, understanding, empathy, and compromise. It’s as if our societal whole lost sight of behaviors that make life bearable: kindness, civility, and personal accountability. We’ve lost the ability to think first and ponder, then speak, and instead just blurt out whatever quick emotions trick us into at a given instant. But as in many things in life, thrown stones are difficult to retrieve, and accusations once made cannot be taken back (but if you’re lucky, the falsely accused can forgive). Slow Words cautions us to hold on to that stone and keep those words in check until we are sure we want to speak them, and until we are willing to see that those accusations say more about us than the accused.

As part of a Slow Words movement, let’s feel and speak with open hearts and an empathetic and forgiving view of others. Instead of allowing our own fears and suspicions to rule whatever flies out of our mouths or off our fingertips, let’s take a cue from Emily Post — American authority on etiquette who died in 1960 — who once said, “Manner is personality: the outward manifestation of one’s innate character and attitude toward life.” Treating others decently and with empathy and understanding (or the opposite) is a reflection on you much more than it is a reflection on the other person.

When it comes down to it, the true liars, cheats, morons and deceivers are not as common as the accusations of many seem to indicate. Mostly, we are all just people making the best choices we can given the knowledge we have at that time, and few of those choices are made with ill intent. So how can we judge someone we’ve never even seen, or have only known for a few months? Do we really think we can know who that person is, what motivates them, or what their challenges are in that short a time? Most can’t, especially if they are blinded by their own pasts and prejudices. The person called a liar and a cheat probably isn’t, the faceless forum or Facebook member called a moron probably isn’t, that, either.

Slow Words seeks to break this cycle. And it is quite simple, really. All we have to do is to stop accusing, and start listening with positive intent instead of suspicion. Think before speaking, and allow that pause to insert some sense into the conversation. Make sure your communication reflects what you really want and who you really are and if it doesn’t, then maybe keeping your mouth closed and keyboard inactive for awhile is the better choice.

I realize I am an incurable optimist and have way too much empathy and positive belief in others for my own good, but I believe if we Slow our Words down that we will all be happier, and our relationships with strangers and those close to us much improved. Slow Words can change the world. Once we start using Slow Words, real understanding, true and lasting connection, and resolution can take place.

Rural Spin

 
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Posted by on December 31, 2013 in Historic Reflections

 

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10 Homemade & Healthy Coffee Creamers

10 Homemade & Healthy Coffee Creamers  - www.ruralspin.com

Forget the artificial stuff, make your own tasty coffee creamers!

I love coffee, and a good coffee creamer that enhances the flavor of the coffee is an elevation of the morning beverage. Coffee creamers can, depending on the flavor, also be used in other hot or cold beverages, like hot cocoa and tea (think chai!)

But store-bought creamers are kinda gross, as a general rule. They contain artificial ingredients and the flavors tend to reflect this fakeness, not to mention ingredients like corn syrup and partially hydrogenated oils. I prefer my food real and whole, and the wide variety of 10 coffee creamer flavors presented here call for nothing but natural and organic ingredients. No fake extracts are even used! But if you’re looking for exact taste replacements for mass produced creamers with flavors made in a lab, you won’t find it here. What you will find are real, depth-filled flavors that you can feel comfortable drinking every day. And they taste fantastic!

THE BASE

There are several options for your creamer milk base, and you can decide which one you’d like to use. Other bloggers for homemade creamer use sweetened condensed milk for part of the base, but I prefer not to use this as an ingredient (though I do provide this as an option if you want to go that route). Sweeten condensed milk is made from sugar and milk and has a thick consistency, but I feel it is too sweet for my tastes. And, I prefer to have more control over my milk and sugar sources.

Fake creamers do have a chemically induced creamy richness that many people say they can’t live without. Sweeten condensed milk does provide some of this, but I think it is cloyingly sweet and overpowers any real flavor. But if creaminess is your own personal Nirvana, check out the nut-based creamer recipes; the nuts in those recipes give the creamer a natural thick, richness that surpasses any store-bought creamer.

So, the choice for your base is really up to you! The 10 creamer recipes are made using about two cups of liquid; you can increase the quantity of ingredients proportionally if you want to make more than two cups of creamer at once.

Here are your base options:

Plain and simple: 

If you just want flavoring for your coffee and aren’t picky about things like creaminess, this is the option for you. This also works if you are lactose-intolerant or vegan, and want to avoid milk products:

  • 2 cups whole milk, half-and-half, or nut milk

Sweeten condensed milk option:

Here is the option for sweeten condensed milk, if you decide you want to go that route:

  • 1/2 can sweetened condensed milk (7 ounces)
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk or half-and-half

Heavy whipping cream and half-n-half:

This is what I use as my base; I stick with a combination of heavy whipping cream and half-and-half or whole milk. The heavy whipping cream delivers thick creaminess while adding half-and-half/whole milk prevents the thickness from being too overpowering:

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 cup whole milk or half and half

THE RECIPES

A note on sugar: for these recipes I err on the side of “light” sweetness. I don’t have a huge sweet tooth, and I like my creamers to be a bit more versatile; when I want more sweetness I can just add it after I add my flavored creamer to my coffee. So if these recipes don’t seem sweet enough to you, simply add more of whatever sweetener is called for in the recipe after you’ve tasted the end result.

For all of these recipes, I use a high-speed blender to incorporate my ingredients into my base. This is a quick and easy way to get everything incorporated, especially for the nut-based recipes. But beware! Make sure you don’t process too long or at too high a speed, or else you’ll end up making flavored whipped cream! I speak from experience! With my high-powered blender I limit my whizzing to about 15 seconds or so.

10 Homemade & Healthy Coffee Creamers - www.ruralspin.com

Hazelnut

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HAZELNUT

This is the real deal, and it tastes like real, honest-to-goodness hazelnuts! Toasting the nuts is a necessity; don’t skip this step. If you do, you’ll be disappointed in the taste of your creamer.

  • 2 cups base
  • 1 cup hazelnuts, toasted
  • 1 tbls sugar (I use organic sugar for this recipe, you can use honey or maple syrup, but that will affect the taste.)
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Take your hazelnuts and toast them over medium heat in a skillet, stirring constantly, until they begin to brown and start giving off a lovely aroma. (You can also place them on a cookie sheet and bake at 350F for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally). They are done toasting when the nuts are fragrant.

Pour your toasted nuts into a kitchen towel and let them cool completely. After the nuts are cool, fold your towel up and give the nuts a good shake and rub; this will remove the papery husks from the nuts (this won’t work well until the nuts have cooled). If there are a few stuck hulls, don’t worry. You just want most of them gone. 

Place all ingredients into a blender and whizz for about 15 seconds or so, until the nuts are broken apart into small pieces (but don’t turn your base to whipped cream…while the end result of over-blending is great as a pudding-like dessert, not so much for a creamer). Pour into a saucepan and heat over low heat until warm. Remove from heat and let steep for 30 minutes, then strain and pour into a container to store in the refrigerator. Shake well before using.

10 Homemade & Healthy Coffee Creamers - www.ruralspin.com

Pecan Pie

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PECAN PIE

  • 2 cups base
  • 1 cup pecans, toasted
  • 2 tbls maple syrup
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp bourbon (optional)

To toast your pecans, you can either place them on a cookie sheet in a 350F oven for about 10 to 15 minutes, or toast them in a skillet over low heat, stirring constantly. With either method, stop toasting when the pecans start giving off their tasty aroma.

Place all ingredients in a blender and whizz until the nuts are chopped fine. Warm in a saucepan over low heat, then let steep for at least 30 minutes. Strain, and pour into your container for the refrigerator. Shake well before using.

10 Homemade & Healthy Coffee Creamers - www.ruralspin.com

Coconut

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COCONUT

  • 2 cups base
  • 1 cup coconut flakes
  • 2 tbls sugar (I use organic)

Place all ingredients in your blender and whizz until incorporated and the coconut flakes are chopped fine. Strain your creamer to remove the larger bits of coconut flake, and store in the refrigerator.

10 Homemade & Healthy Coffee Creamers  - www.ruralspin.com

Rosewater and Honey

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ROSEWATER AND HONEY

When I first created this creamer, I fell in love with it! The scent and taste are perfect for afternoon cups of coffee, and I like it in tea, too. If you like more unconventional tastes, give this a shot!

  • 2 cups base
  • 2 tsp pure rosewater
  • 3 tbls honey
  • 1/8 tsp cinnamon

Place your ingredients in your blender and whizz for about 15 seconds until incorporated. Store in the refrigerator until ready to use, and shake well.

10 Homemade & Healthy Coffee Creamers - www.ruralspin.com

Cardamom Cream

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CARDAMOM CREAM

This is probably my favorite of the creamer flavors I developed. Cardamom goes great with sweet dishes, like cinnamon does, and is a great option for a coffee creamer because of this.

  • 2 cups base
  • 3 tsp ground cardamom
  • 6 cardamom pods, split open and seeds added to base
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tbls sugar

Place all ingredients in your blender and whizz until combined! Pour into a container and store in the refrigerator, shaking well before use.

10 Homemade & Healthy Coffee Creamers  - www.ruralspin.com

Mayan Mocha

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MAYAN MOCHA

.If you like spicy food, give this creamer a try! You might find it to be a bit addicting! But I did make this spicy, so be prepared for a kick!

  • 2 cups base
  • 4 tbls cocoa powder
  • 5 tbls honey
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

Place all ingredients in your blender and whizz until combined. Pour into a container and store in the refrigerator, shaking well before use.

10 Homemade & Healthy Coffee Creamers  - www.ruralspin.com

French Vanilla

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FRENCH VANILLA

You can’t beat the taste of real vanilla! While you can use all pure vanilla extract for this, using beans will just make it that much better (but be sure to shake before use; as you can see from the photo, the beans will float to the top).Since vanilla is the star here, elevate it with real beans!

  • 2 cups base
  • 1 tsp fresh vanilla beans, scraped from about 10 vanilla pods (or you can use vanilla paste)
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract (double if you’re not using the real beans)
  • 1 tbls sugar

Place all ingredients in your blender and whizz until combined. Pour into a container and store in the refrigerator.

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10 Homemade & Healthy Coffee Creamers - www.ruralspin.com

Pumpkin Spice

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PUMPKIN SPICE

A Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte costs an arm and a leg, yet all it is is pumpkin pie spice mix and milk. Make your own:

  • 2 cups base
  • 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 4 tbls maple syrup
  • 1 tbls pumpkin puree (optional but a nice addition)

Place all ingredients in your blender and whizz until combined. Pour into a container and store in the refrigerator. And shake well before use, of course!

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10 Homemade & Healthy Coffee Creamers  - www.ruralspin.com

Mint Chocolate Chip

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MINT CHOCOLATE CHIP

  • 2 cups base
  • 4 tbls cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp pure peppermint extract
  • 4 tbls sugar

Place all ingredients in your blender and whizz until combined. Pour into a container and store in the refrigerator. Mix well before using!

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10 Homemade & Healthy Coffee Creamers  - www.ruralspin.com

Cinnamon Strudel

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CINNAMON STRUDEL 

  • 2 cups base
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tbls honey
  • 1/8 tsp ground cloves

Place all ingredients in your blender and whizz until combined. Pour into a container and store in the refrigerator and shake well before use!

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Enjoy!

Rural Spin

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29 Comments

Posted by on December 15, 2013 in Kitchen Tips, Recipes, Saving Money

 

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8 Winter Bloomers for Indoor Beauty

Winter blooms for indoors - www.ruralspin.com

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When temperatures turn chilly and nights get longer, there’s nothing like indoor blooming plants to brighten up a home and enhance the coziness of winter. Not only do indoor plants provide some welcome air freshening benefits, several winter-blooming plants can brighten up grey, cold days and bring summer cheer into the home.

Keep in mind that several of these plants naturally bloom as night length increases. This photoperiodic blooming requires those nights to be uninterrupted by light in order for flower buds to form. So, plants that are in rooms where they lights are on until midnight won’t set flower. To combat this, you need to make sure the plant is either placed in a closet at night, or you can cover the plant with a box; anything to keep the plant in uninterrupted darkness all night. Just cover the plant when the sun goes down. But be sure to uncover it at dawn!

Here are my favorite winter-blooming plants for the indoor home!

African Violet: African violets come in a wide variety of colors and are a good choice for winter blooming (in fact, they bloom well all year). The secret to getting African violets to bloom is to have them sit in an east facing window. The light there is perfect for plant health and blooming. Set your African violet pots in over-sized trays full of pebbles, making sure to keep water in the tray (when you water from above, the excess water will drain into the pebbles). This will help increase the humidity level of dry winter air. Lastly, you can purchase fertilizer specifically to help African violets bloom! Be sure to follow label directions.

Winter blooms for indoors - www.ruralspin.com

African violets come in many colors. One blooming secret is locating plants in an east-facing window.

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Begonias: Not all begonias bloom indoors; specifically you will need rhizomatous or winter-flowering begonias for winter blooms. Winter flowering begonias are stimulated to bloom by longer nights, making them perfect for winter color. Provide your plants with bright, indirect light during the day, and make sure you let the top 1/2″ of soil dry out between waterings. Over watering won’t only inhibit blooming, it will kill the plant! (In fact, the #1 cause of houseplant demise is over watering.) After the plant blooms, give it a rest by letting the soil dry almost completely, and giving the plant a good pruning.

Winter blooms for indoors - www.ruralspin.com

Winter-flowering and rhizomatous begonias are stimulated to bloom with shortened daylight.

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Bulbs: Forcing bulbs indoors is a wonderful way to bring a bit of spring to the winter home, but a bit of skill is needed. Most bulbs — including tulips, daffodils, hyacinth, iris, and more — require 10 to 16 weeks of chilling at 40 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit in order to produce blooms. Some bulbs are trickier than others to force indoors. The easier chill-requiring candidates include hyacinth, crocus, and muscari. To learn more about forcing specific bulbs indoors, read this nice publication from the University of Missouri Extension office.

Winter blooms for indoors - www.ruralspin.com

Most spring bulbs, like these hyacinth, need to chill for 10 to 14 weeks at 40 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit before forcing indoors.

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There are, however, two bulbs that do not require chilling before forcing since they originate from tropical climates. These include amaryllis and paperwhite narcissus. For this reason, these two bulbs are highly recommended bulbs to force for winter color. To read the specifics of forcing amaryllis and paperwhite indoors, read this publication from the Iowa State University Extension.

Winter blooms for indoors - www.ruralspin.com

Amaryllis and paperwhite narcissus do not require chilling before forcing indoors.

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Cyclamen: This potted plant is a common site in florists at shops and grocery stores, and with good reason; the flowers are lovely and blooms come in a variety of colors. The plant also naturally blooms in winter. You can benefit from these positive attributes in your own home, and the flowers last a very long time with a bit of care! To this end keep your cyclamen on a window sill; they like chilly temperatures and will benefit from the cooler temperatures by the window. Ideally temperatures for the happiest cyclamen hover around 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Indirect or filtered direct light is best, and keep the soil evenly moist in a well-drained soil.

Winter blooms for indoors - www.ruralspin.com

Cyclamen are natural winter bloomers.

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Christmas Cactus: As the name implies, the natural bloom time for this succulent is late December. As with begonias, Christmas cactus bloom as daylight length decreases. Christmas cactus appreciate bright, indirect light; full sun will burn their leaves. Also avoid warm, blowing air such as from a furnace. Setting the pot on pebbles in a large tray, and keeping water in the reservoir, will help increase winter’s low humidity level, too. Christmas cactus is a tropical plant, and as such proper watering is important. When you water, water thoroughly, making sure water drains from the pot well. But before watering again, make sure the top inch or so of the soil has dried thoroughly, then water completely again. Keep in mind that too much or too little water will cause flower buds to drop off.

Fragrant Jasmine: Jasmine is a tropical vine, and is treated as a houseplant in areas outside of its native Southeast Asia. But the heavenly scent keeps people coming back. In order to set buds, the plant needs temperatures that are consistently lower than 65 degrees Fahrenheit in an area with very little direct sun. After buds are set, however, the plant can be brought into a warmer location of the house to sit in an east window. As with other plants, humidity (or lack thereof) is an issue, and a water-and-pebble tray or a humidifier is needed to keep your plant happiest (just make sure the pot isn’t sitting in water; soggy roots will kill the plant).

Kalanchoe: If you feel you have a “black thumb,” kalanchoe might be the plant for you. This succulent requires short winter days to bloom, and is very forgiving with a high tolerance for a wide variety of care. It does, however, require a south facing window with full sun for proper growth and best blooming. And like most houseplants, don’t over water. In fact, in winter you can almost let the plant dry out; this is preferable to watering too much.

Winter blooms for indoors - www.ruralspin.com

Kalanchoe is a very forgiving indoor winter bloomer.

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Streptocarpus: This little-known gem (also called cape primrose) has a flower resembling an orchid, which lasts a long time indoors. The plant is related to African violets, and also require the indirect, bright light that an east-facing window provides. Only water the plants when the top inch of soil or so is dry; as with other plants, watering too often will cause the plant to rot. Even less water is required in winter. A fertilizer geared towards enhancing African violet blooms will work for this plant, too!

With this wide selection of indoor bloomers, you won’t lack for winter color. Many of these varieties are also very forgiving to those who feel they are not good at growing houseplants. Once you are able to place a pot of blooming African violets or paperwhite narcissus on your table when a snow storm is blowing, you’ll be glad you took the time!

Rural Spin

 
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Posted by on December 8, 2013 in Gardening, Home and Living

 

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5 Elements of Home

What does "home" mean to you?

What does “home” mean to you?

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I’ve bounced around the US, moving from place-to-place, my whole life, yet I’ve only recently started to think about what “Home” is and what it means to me. As a nomad in the midst of yet another move, with family scattered across the country, the concept of a specific place as Home does not resonate with me. Most people take it for granted that Home is the place they grew up, or where most of their family is located. Or Home is where the spouse and children are. But even if you are lucky enough to know where your Home is, a heartfelt investigation into the true personal meaning of Home and what it feels like may be one key towards a happier life. If we know what Home feels like, we can create it wherever we are.

Home is a very personal concept; what it means to one person can vary greatly compared to what it means to another. But after several months of discussion with people far and wide, Home has some key elements that come up again and again. In fact, I believe these five elements not only define Home, but their presence also allow us to grow as individuals into our full, happy potential. And is this not the purpose of Home?

PEACEFUL

This goes beyond musical taste, the loudness of the stereo, or whether or not kids are playing kickball in the kitchen. To some, the quietness of just sitting would be less peaceful than having a house full of teenagers during a sleepover. Instead of coming from external forces, the peacefulness is felt inside. It comes from a place of knowing your space and feeling relaxed, where you can retire from the troubles of the outside world in a fashion of your choosing. You feel calm inside because you can simply be yourself, with either a cup of tea and some Bach, or tattoos and some Slayer.

ACCEPTED

None of us is perfect. We all have our human flaws. Some have these more than others, and some flaws ebb and flow like the tide. But at Home we are accepted for who we are at each moment in time, even if we may not be all that pleasant to be around. Accepting someone doesn’t mean you have to put up with nonsense (or that they put up with yours), it just means you aren’t going anywhere when it comes up. There is a difference between accepting someone and liking all of their facets all of the time, even your own children. But gently discussion our individual nonsense with each other without abject finger pointing or blame provides us all a place to grow positively. But many times acceptance is the only thing that is necessary, instead of discussion.

LOVED

It is no surprise that Home includes being loved and loving others. For some a cat can provide this; for others nothing less than a spouse, a half dozen children, and two dogs will suffice.While the package might look different from person to person, the love is a constant. We all want to be loved. But many forget that Home is also a place where the love you give is not only wanted, but appreciated and desired. Our happiness is fueled just as much when someone embraces the love we give as it is when we are the receiver of such expressions. Home includes both.

HEARD

At Home we should be able to express our opinions and be listened to. Many spend so much time deciding how to reply to what someone is saying that they forget to actually listen to what is being said. Home is not about ego or judging others, and it is not about “winning.” It is about working towards harmony in a space filled with flawed human beings. Having a voice, and quietly listening to the voice of others with compassion, is part of Home. We can never get to know someone if we never pay attention and actually listen. We all change every day, and this listening and hearing should never end. And it should always be two-way.

SAFE

Safety is the most important element when it comes to feeling at Home. It encompasses all of the other elements, and without safety the other elements cannot exist.  No one in the Home should have to worry of physical abuse, and they should also be free from suspicion, constant blame, undue scrutiny, distrust, or other forms of mental abuse. Home is a place where we feel safe because we are heard, accepted, and loved, and a place we feel peace because we are safe. We are safe because our family members are loyal to us, and we are loyal to them. Home is a place where your team is, and teammates will help you when needed, provide a safety net when required, and cheer you on when asked. Home is the ultimate “I got your back.”

Please leave your thoughts in comments! I’d love to hear what you think, and other ways you feel Home for yourself and those you love.

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.Rural Spin

 
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Posted by on November 14, 2013 in Home and Living

 

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